Bayern facing early exit – van Gaal too?

Hamburg, Nov 24 (DPA) Bayern Munich’s fate in the Champions League is out of their hands as they take on Maccabi Haifa Wednesday. The fate of coach Louis van Gaal meanwhile hangs in the balance.

Exit from a competition Bayern won in 2001 is bound to increase pressure on the Dutchman who could be on his way at the end of the year unless results and performances pick up.

At least that’s the general consensus Tuesday in the German media who see comparisons with van Gaal’s predecessor Juergen Klinsmann.

The former striker was sacked in April not long after Bayern went out of the Champions League last season to eventual winners Barcelona.

Indeed chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s words following the 4-0 defeat in Barcelona are remarkably similar to comments made after Bayern were held 1-1 at home by Bayer Leverkusen Sunday.

Rummenigge then said it was important to stay “rational”, “not to overreact” or take any “spontaneous and irrational” decisions. Nineteen days later, Klinsmann was sacked.

“There’s no point taking any decisions in the heat of the moment,” Rummenigge said on Sunday to the media speculation on van Gaal.

“We need to be rational and objective, not irrational and emotional when we consider the situation.

“We need to join forces with the team and the coach and hopefully turn things round as quickly as possible. I hope we succeed. If not, we’ll have to see what happens.”

Bayern must beat Maccabi while hoping Juventus fail to defeat already-qualified Girondins Bordeaux to have any hope of progressing in the Champions League from Group A.

If their exit is sealed even before the final group game next month it would be a real damper just two days before general manager Uli Hoeness formally succeeds Franz Beckenbauer as president.

The club’s annual general meeting on Friday is in any case unlikely to be a celebratory affair in view of Bayern’s recent lack of success.

Defender Philip Lahm recently hit a sore spot with criticism of the club’s transfer policies and the lack of a clear playing system. The newspaper interview earned him a club-record fine but his views are shared by many Bayern fans.

There have been other signs that all is not well. New players have not settled in or are unhappy at being left out, others are simply off form. Italy striker Luca Toni, frustrated at his lack of opportunities, recently left the stadium after being substituted at half-time – and was also promptly handed a hefty fine.

Bayern are by no means out of contention in the league, although lying seventh, six points behind leaders Leverkusen, with a record of five wins, six draws and two defeats.

Van Gaal has also had to cope with injuries to key players in France midfielder Franck Ribery and Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who Monday was again unable to train due to a recurring knee problem.

But the team has lacked consistency and confidence, and the signs are that van Gaal is running out of time to turn things round.

“If we go out of the Champions League we’ll analyse things in the winter break and get together to decide how things should continue. And then we will reach a solution,” Beckenbauer said.